You’ve surely noticed that your little pet piggie is constantly chewing and gnawing…
But did you know that this behavior has tremendous health benefits? 🐹🦷🌿
Guinea pigs need to chew all the time because their teeth are continuously growing (even as you read!), and they need to be filed down by grinding against each other.
But what happens when a guinea pig doesn’t munch enough?
And these can cause a host of potentially fatal dental problems…
Something you definitely want to avoid!
We’ll show you the way!
This article will cover everything you have to know about guinea pig dental disease, including background information, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and, of course, prevention!
If you’d like to jump to a specific section, feel free to do so with this clever little table of contents.
If not, let’s take it from the top!
Dental Disease in Guinea Pigs
Here’s what you probably already know about guinea pigs’ teeth:
Guinea pigs have adorable, tiny mouths with two long incisors on both the top and bottom jaw.
But there’s more than meets the eye:
Guinea pigs also have four pairs of hidden ‘cheek’ teeth per side at the back of their mouths (four premolars and twelve molars). They don’t have canines, though — instead, they have a small gap between their front teeth and back teeth called a diastema.
This makes for a total of 20 teeth that are continually growing and at risk of becoming too long if your guinea pig doesn’t chew on enough yummy grass hay!
Some of the most frequent forms of dental disease caused by overgrown teeth are:
- Trapped or punctured tongue (primarily caused by cheek teeth)
- A punctured mouth socket
- Irregular wear (which causes chewing to be uncomfortable)
- The development of dental abscesses
- Problems with their incisor teeth (like sharp spurs)
- Overgrown tooth roots
Just reading this list sounds painful, right? 😧
That means you’ll want to catch these guinea pig tooth problems as soon as you can!
But, since it’s tough to see most of these issues due to their fluffy cheeks and small mouths, you’ll need to learn what signs to keep an eye out for…
Here you go:
Signs and Symptoms To Look Out For
- Overgrown front teeth (long incisors are easy to spot)
- Weight loss
- Changes in eating habits (i.e., loss of appetite or a preference for softer foods)
- Reduced quantity of stools
- Excessive salivation
- Weakness and lack of movement
- Swelling on their tiny guinea pig faces
- Red, irritated gums
Remember that symptoms can bequite subtle…
So make sure to take your pets to the vet for a health check as soon as you notice something out of the ordinary!
And that brings you to the next step:
Diagnosing Guinea Pig Dental Disease
Only a vet with guinea pig experience can accurately diagnose dental disease!
Your friendly veterinarian will either:
- Use a special tool (a speculum or an otoscope) to examine your piggie’s mouth and identify the problem, or
- Request an x-ray or CT scan (under general anesthesia) to better assess the problem’s severity.
And once the problem is clearly diagnosed, your vet will present you with a care plan for your guinea pig…
Let’s quickly summarize what you can expect!
Treatments and Cures
The care options available to guinea pigs depend on:
- How severe their dental disease is, and
- The stage at which it was caught.
In some super mild cases, your vet will recommend a change in diet (more hay!) as the only treatment… and your pets will be symptom-free in no time!
But in most cases, a dental procedure is required to file your guinea pig’s teeth back down to the correct length and angle.
In more severe cases, your vet might need to extract the problem tooth and give your guinea pig a slightly more ‘pirate look.’ 🐹🚢🏴☠️
If an operation is necessary, your guinea pig will also need pain relief medication and supportive feeding to help with the painful recovery period.
But what does the detection stage have to do with it?
If you’re lucky (or attentive) enough to catch the disease early on, your guinea pig has a great chance of recovering fully and being cured of this pesky issue!
However, if you’re too late in diagnosing the condition, dental issues can become nearly impossible to cure because your guinea pigs’ teeth may grow back abnormally time and time again…
Meaning they’ll need regular operations (at least a few times a year) to keep their teeth at the right length and angle.
The risk of chronic dental disease is precisely what makes prevention the number one care strategy for pet rodents!
Prevention Is King
When it comes to healthy teeth, guinea pigs need one thing above everything else:
A balanced diet with tons of delicious grass hay!
And more specifically, timothy hay (for adults) or a mix of timothy and alfalfa (for youngsters under 6 months and pregnant/nursing sows).
Sound easier than medical procedures?
That’s because it is! 🤗
The constant chewing and biting will keep their teeth (incisors, premolars, and molars) worn down at a healthy length, without any outside help.
But exactly how much hay does a guinea pig need?
A lot — 70-80% of their overall diet!
The remaining 20-30% should be evenly split between:
- High-quality guinea pig pellets
- Fresh vegetables and herbs (like celery, parsley, bok choy, basil, broccoli, and mint — click here for some more fresh food ideas)
P.S. Give your pets unlimited water too!
Vitamin C is also a concern because guinea pigs don’t produce any by themselves, and low vitamin C levels have been linked to dental disease. So, if your pet guinea pigs’ diet doesn’t feature enough vitamin C-rich foods and herbs, get them this delicious supplement and give them a tablet a day.
Finally, as part of your prevention routine, you should schedule regular check-ups with your vet (about twice a year) — better safe than sorry!
Final Thoughts on Guinea Pig Teeth
Always remember these two things:
1. Prevention, prevention, prevention!
2. Hay needs to make up 70-80% of your guinea pig’s food!
This is the absolute best way to care for your guinea pigs’ teeth and stop them from getting too long and causing painful problems to your loved fluffball!
But, if you ever notice anything strange about your guinea pig or their tiny mouth, take them straight to the vet and get them the professional care they need! 👨⚕️👩⚕️🩺🐹